NATIONAL NEWS

Iowa teen on trial for killing of 2 fellow students says he feared for his life

Aug 31, 2023, 10:17 AM | Updated: 6:38 pm

FILE - Law enforcement officers stand outside a school housing an educational program called Starts...

FILE - Law enforcement officers stand outside a school housing an educational program called Starts Right Here that's affiliated with the Des Moines, Iowa, School District, following a shooting, Jan. 23, 2023, in Des Moines. Lawyers gave their opening statements Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in the trial of Preston Walls, a Des Moines teenager accused of murdering two students at the alternative school for at-risk young people. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP, File)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa teenager feared for his life when he fatally shot two fellow students at an alternative educational program for at-risk youth, his lawyer said Thursday, rebutting a claim by prosecutors that the shooting was a premeditated attack on rival gang members.

Preston Walls, 19, is one of two students charged in the shooting at the Starts Right Here program on Jan. 23, which killed 18-year-old Gionni Dameron and 16-year-old Rashad Carr. The victims’ families have denied they were involved in gangs.

The school’s founder Will Keeps, himself an ex-gang member, was wounded trying to intervene to stop the violence. He still has lingering injuries.

As Walls’ trial began Thursday, attorney Glen Downey said his client admits he pulled the trigger but did so because “he didn’t want to die.”

“Preston decided he didn’t want to go home to his family in a pine box,” Downey said.

Prosecutor Stephanie Cox told jurors they would hear testimony from Keeps and see footage of the shootings.

“You will watch a video and you will see with your own eyes Preston Walls shoot 30 times,” Cox said.

Walls is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and criminal gang participation. Jury selection had stretched for more than three days.

Bravon Tukes, 19, is set to stand trial on the same charges on Oct. 2. Police allege that Walls fired the shots before fleeing in a car driven by Tukes.

Prosecutors opened their case by playing an at-times graphic police bodycam video showing the chaotic scene when officers arrived. Jurors could see the victims lying on the school floor and watched as an officer attempted CPR on one of the teens.

Lt. Andrew Phipps described the “smell of gunpowder” when he entered the school and numerous shell casings on the floor.

YaVonne Palmer, an administrator at Starts Right Here, was down a hallway when the shooting started. She said the sound of bullets being fired created such a cacophony that she thought it sounded like a cupboard full of dishes were being smashed.

Prosecutors initially sought to try Walls and Tukes together but the judge separated the proceedings at the request of Tukes’ lawyer, who plans to seek Walls’ testimony in his client’s defense. The trial for Walls is expected to last about a week.

Police arrested Walls less than an hour after the shooting at the school on the edge of downtown Des Moines.

The alternative program, which is affiliated with the Des Moines public schools, closed immediately after the shooting but reopened within a few weeks. About 30 students now attend the program.

Keeps, the school’s founder, was a 15-year-old member of a Chicago gang when he witnessed rival members kill his friend. He escaped the streets and moved to Iowa to help other young people from troubled backgrounds.

National News

Associated Press

New Hampshire Gov. Sununu signs bill banning transgender girls from girls’ sports

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire has signed a bill that would ban transgender athletes in grades 5-12 from teams that align with their gender identity, adding the state to nearly half in the nation that adopted similar measures. The bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature would require schools to […]

44 minutes ago

Associated Press

2024 Election Latest: Growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers call for Biden to drop reelection bid

A rapidly growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers called Friday for President Joe Biden to drop his reelection bid, even as the president insisted he’s read y to return to the campaign trail next week to counter what he called a “dark vision” laid out by Republican Donald Trump. As more Democratic members of Congress urged […]

50 minutes ago

Jungle Cruise Skipper Gabriel Ramos keeps up the Jungle Cruise-style humor as he joins other Disney...

Associated Press

Disneyland workers authorize potential strike ahead of continued contract negotiations

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of workers at Disney’s theme park and resort properties in California voted late Friday to authorize a potential strike, as contract negotiations drag on. The strike authorization was approved by an overwhelming margin, nearly 99% of the members who cast votes according to a union statement. The election was held […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Se...

Associated Press

This is how Secret Service protection has changed for presidents over the years

WASHINGTON (AP) — During Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, anyone could come to the White House and see him. Come they did: mothers looking to have their sons released from military service, wives urging that their husbands be freed from prison after resisting the draft, others who simply wanted to meet the president. “Some only wanted comfort […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Deborah Moody, an administrative clerk at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Anchora...

Associated Press

Alaska election officials to recalculate signatures for ranked vote repeal measure after court order

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A state court judge on Friday disqualified numerous booklets used to gather signatures for an initiative that aims to repeal Alaska’s ranked choice voting system and gave elections officials a deadline to determine if the measure still had sufficient signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The decision by Superior Court […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

UN approves more transparent procedures for people and entities to get off its sanctions lists

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved more transparent procedures Friday for the hundreds of individuals, companies and other entities who are subject to U.N. sanctions and want to get off the blacklists. The resolution, co-sponsored by Malta and the United States, also authorizes the establishment of a new informal working […]

9 hours ago

Iowa teen on trial for killing of 2 fellow students says he feared for his life